Tuesday, September 23, 2008

EP Review: April All Year Long

Give me a Jersey Girl who lists Gene Pitney among her influences and dedicates her most sarcastic material to Paris Hilton, and I might forget to check whether she has any actual talent before declaring myself her biggest fan. Well, singer/songwriter/guitarist April Smith is a Jersey Girl. She lists Gene Pitney among her influences. She dedicates her most sarcastic material to Paris Hilton. Oh, I hope she has talent......(he listens closely to her music)......yes! She has talent!

April’s debut album, loveletterbombs [sic], was released by the tiny Indigo Planet label in 2005. Most of its tracks were guitar-heavy, cathartic rock mini-dramas sung in a punky voice. It was a solid effort, but there was no way it could prepare anyone for what was to come. As her self-released EP Live From The Penthouse demonstrates, the new April Smith offers beguilingly melodic pop opuses which draw from various elements of vintage popular music while retaining a thoroughly contemporary attitude. “Drop Dead Gorgeous” is a good example of this delicate balance: it sounds at times like a 1950s teen idol ballad, but lines like “You’re so enchanting when your mouth is closed” and “A pretty face is all you’ll ever be to me” would never have been uttered by Frankie Avalon. The delightfully naughty “Wow And Flutter” also excels at bridging the gap between old and new, its music hall style offset by many eyebrow-raising proclamations: “My mouth is wide open, ready to explore,” “I’m gonna spin you around and play you like a record,” and pretty much anything else a woman might say to get a man both aroused and a bit frightened.

All of the songs on the EP have something special to offer. “The Battle of Eliyahu” combines a jazzy melody with a sunshine pop arrangement and lyrics worthy of a sassy cabaret act, while “Beloved” is an extremely touching ballad. “Colors” is a rousing sing-along and one of my personal favorites. April likes to dedicate this one to our troops serving overseas, and while that is a kind gesture, “Colors” is simply too cheerful for me to associate it with something as bleak as war.

Throughout the EP, April is supported by her band The Great Picture Show. These performances have all the rawness and quirkiness you would expect from a live show, and they are mostly quite good. April’s throaty, elastic voice has really matured into a full-bodied instrument, and The Great Picture Show prove themselves to be no slouches. The slow numbers sound great, but the up-tempo “Wow and Flutter” and “Colors” are both a blast in this live setting. “The Battle of Eliyahu” suffers somewhat from an uneven vocal, but it must still be enjoyable because I’ve certainly played it enough times! This EP is well worth the purchase if you want April’s newer songs or if you’re looking for a handy document of her (and her band’s) live work. Be sure to look for it online or at April's shows.

For all things April Smith:

Copyright © 2008 S.J. Dibai. All rights reserved.

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